OPERATION: DOWNFALL (The Invasion of Japan for Otaku Purposes [aka ODTIJOP])


We checked out the hotel room for a little while (this didn't take too long seeing as my freshman year dorm room was twice the size), turned on the TV just to see how utterly bat-shit insane Japanese television is (and it is, but I'll get to that later), then headed out for a walk around town before we went looking for dinner.

WTF, Japan?!

What the fuck, Japan?


Full moon over TokyoIt was almost totally dark by the time we got started, and we followed the train tracks past the fabled ramen shops for a while before taking a bridge to the other side and across the river. We just wandered about, looking like total gaijin tourists for the most part as we kept looking up at the buildings that towered above us, trying to keep track of where we were, where we had been, and where we were going so that we could find our way back to the Prince Hotel later.

We walked through a huge business district, along a riverside park or three, past a giant tennis and fitness complex on top of a large parking garage, and we saw more vending machines along the way than I had seen previously in MY ENTIRE LIFE. They were everywhere! Lined up in front of convenience stores, by restaurant doors, down back alleys (I am not shitting you — we saw a glow coming from a 4-foot wide alley and followed it to find 3 coffee and soft drink machines about 20 feet down), and they acted as sentries to every apartment building we passed. Just how much caffeine does the average Tokyoite need on a daily basis?

It was when we found a glowing and still operational vending machine in a gated-off and abandoned parking lot (I use that term loosely seeing as most parking lots I know of have more than 3 spaces) that Mehve decided upon his mission for this trip: to drink as many new coffees and sodas as he could within our two week window. I told him that he'd also be able to hit a record number of public bathrooms (or "toiret-u" if we want to keep with the local naming conventions) if he attempted that too, but he just ignored me as others are wont to do.

So after getting lost and relost for about 2 hours we finally managed to find our way back to the Shinagawa Train Station, and we were wiped out. I hadn't really gotten much sleep in the previous 48 hours, and it was starting to take its toll. But before that I was starving. So Mehve and I began roving around the restaurant block on the other side of the station from our hotel, looking for a local eatery to be our first official meal in country. We walked up and down the few blocks dedicated to food (and pachinko... LOTS of pachinko... Christ, all that pachinko), looking left and right and up and down (We found that every commercial building had at least 2, sometimes up to 7 floors of either stores, restaurants, or massage parlors rising up vertically, with neon signs up and down the exterior of the edifices making the whole town look like Blade Runner... Blade Runner came first, right?). We were confused by the enormous amount of choices though, and basically just gave in to the first street corner hustler who greeted us and told us in Engrish how "supah great-u oishii" his restaurant was. So we just believed him and followed him into a place called "Cham."

CHAM Glam!Oh man, those street corner hustlers were awesomely pushy and aggressive, we'd find. Whenever there's a restaurant nearby, there they'd be, out on the sidewalk with either a menu (filled with pictures — EVERY menu in Japan is filled with tons of pictures, very little writing) or an iPad (with an interactive menu, filled with pictures). Our Cham street hustler had an iPad, which I thought was cool.

Anyway, we were seated on the far side of the Cham bar (away from the view from the front door so that my gaijin-ness didn't scare any customers away with my disgusting non-epicanthically-folded eyelids) and given our own menus to go over. Like most places we eventually ate at they actually had separate gaijin menus with limited Engrish on them (I'd usually get one handed to me right away, but Mehve would typically be given a regular Japanesey menu first, which I always found HILARIOUS, and I'd always laugh and point at him), but I found that the pictures in the menus helped much more than something like "hot pokr cultet with charbantu rice vegetable with side fresh" and "fatty tuna hot serving."

Anyway, I tried ordering a Yebisu beer at Cham, but the bartender just looked at me funny, as if I told him I liked to manually masturbate pigs in my free time. Mehve tried ordering a Kirin, but with similar results. The bartender then asked us a lot of rapid Japanese questions till I mimed drinking from a tall pint glass and said "Beer! Please! Two beers! BEEEEEE-RUUUUU!" It was that last one he understood.

"Ah," he said. "So desu ka. Biru? Hai?"

"Hai," I replied. "Ni biru." I pointed to me "Ichi." Then I pointed to Mehve "Ni biru."

Bartender-san was pleased, and we hit the menus. It looked like a Tapas kind of place, with lots of small-portioned menu items instead of any big meals. We were fine with that, but we noticed quickly that none of the food appeared to be particularly Japanesey in origin. "Oh fuck," Mehve said. "Ugh, I think we're in a Chinese restaurant! Our first meal in Japan is in a Chinese restaurant!"

That didn't bother me much at all seeing as I was hungry and tired as hell, but what did get my goat was the fact that the beers we got (Asahi, as it turned out) were 1/4th head. That's unacceptable. I flagged down the bartender and pointed at my drink, and then measured out just how much foam there was at the top of the tall glass while doing a "no-no, bad" waggle of my finger and almost angry look on my face. He just smiled and said "Arrigatou" and walked away while rolling his eyes.

First Japanese food... Er, Chinese food.

Our first Japanese Asian meal in Japan. It was good, no question, but seriously, we learned to read the menus, I mean look at the pictures on the menus before we actually ordered our drinks or anything after this little goof.


The beer was good (once we got past the thick head), and the food was terrific (despite it not being Japanesey), and during that meal Mehve told me all about the soon to be much used "Gaijin Smash" cultural barricade running, faux pas destroying, move of freedom.

Let me back up — everybody knows that the word "gaijin" in Japanese means something like "smelly foreigner that we fear because he/she is loud, smelly, different, and tall and smelly," right? Well, Captain Rugged had found this website written by some hilarious gaijin living in Japan in which the man found a way around all the tedious day-to-day social customs that permeate the Japanese culture to an insane degree (such as all the bowing, the proper ways to hand out business cards, the correct way to pay for your Pocky at the Family Mart, how one asks questions of people behind service counters, to the way one should eat without embarrassing one's ancestors). His trademarked idea behind the Gaijin Smash is that if you're not sure of the correct, polite way to do something, just Gaijin Smash your way through it (like you don't know any better because hey, gaijin so silly and uncouth), and NOBODY will ever say anything to call you on your unknowing ways because they're way too polite. You typically Gaijin Smash with either a big, stupid American grin on your face, or while repeating the word "Sumimasen" ("I'm so very sorry" in English) over and over, like you KIND of know you're screwing up, but still, you're like "fuck it."

For example, this came up because we finished our Asahis pretty quickly and wanted more, but the bartender was ignoring us. After learning about the Gaijin Smash maneuver though I picked up my empty glass, walked to the front of the kind of busy bar and said "Sumimasen, Bartender-san. Ni biru, onegaishimasu." He looked terrified that I had broken some horrific cultural taboo, but in order to quickly seat me on the far end of the bar again, away from equally fearful local eyes, he ushered me back to my bar stool with two fresh birus. When I sat down with the two beers next to Mehve we then raised our drinks, yelled out "Kampai!" and then we raised them up again and said "Gaijin Smash!"

Gaijin SMASH!!!

When Mehve first asked me if I wanted to try "Gaijin Smashing" in Cham I said "HELL YEAH!" and started punching out waitresses, kicking over tables, and growling like a horny Incredible Hulk while yelling out "GAIJIN SMAAAAAASH!" It wasn't until he explained that Gaijin Smashing wasn't about literally destroying physical objects, but instead breaking down the barriers of the mind, and working around the cultural walls that might keep us from communicating properly with those who lived in the special land that we were visiting that I understood the absolute beauty of it. Mehve said I could Rossman Smash a few things too, if I wanted to, but only if I leave no witnesses.


When we were done eating and drinking Mehve was worried that we'd have to Gaijin Smash our way through getting the bill, but I assured him that the universal sign for asking for the check was in fact universal, and I proved it to him by waving till I got Bartender-san's attention and then doing a "check stroke" in the air. He nodded and immediately brought the bill over to us. I got the first meal (we had decided over dinner that we would each cover dinner every other day so that we'd never have to worry about who paid for what, or try to get the non-English-speaking waitress to split the bill between us). Then I shouted out "Whoo-hoo!" when I remembered that I didn't have to leave a tip (it's actually an insult somehow if you do. I don't get it, but who cares! No tipping!). So even though meals were fairly expensive (even without the low Dollar value compared to the ¥en) in Tokyo in general, no 20% tip on top of them brought that price down considerably.

After dinner we walked through the train station again, and then we stopped at the 7/11 right outside the Prince Hotel so that I could buy some Pocky. This then became MY mission in Japan: to eat all the different kinds of snack foods that I could find in a two week period without puking. See, I inherited a bit of wimpy metabolism from my mother: if I don't eat anything within an hour of waking up in the morning I start to feel sick. Like I'm going to throw up sick. It's pathetic and I'm a pussy, yeah, but if I plan ahead and pick up something to nibble on in the morning, well, I'm good to go without food until the next day if I need to. Mehve typically doesn't eat breakfast, so I knew I'd have to plan ahead for myself, hence my Pocky run. Hence my mission to eat a shit-ton of Japanese sugar for breakfast for two weeks straight.

Gaijin SMASH!!!

My God... The snacks! So many chocolatey, delicious, oishii, salivatingly awesome snacks! And every brand of convenience store seemed to carry different ones from the others! The Almond-u Crush-u (pictured here) was good, and Pocky's always great, but I barely scratched the surface at this point... I want to go back, just for the goddamn Dual! I've GOT to see if I can order that shit online!


Then we got back up to our room, noticed the biru vending machine right outside the elevator on our floor, laughed at it, and retired for the night. It was 8:30PM.


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